Force protection in Southern Afghanistan
4 September 2018
Protecting deployed troops from hostile actions is the priority for an Australian Army infantry officer embedded with Train Advise Assist Command - South in southern Afghanistan.
Force Protection Officer, Captain Aaron Condon, of the Command Headquarters, is based at Kandahar Airfield while deployed on Operation Highroad.
Captain Condon is responsible for force protection measures to ensure the safety of the coalition military and civilian personnel based at Kandahar Airfield.
He is also responsible for the preventative security measures taken for the NATO advisors who travel to Afghanistan National Defense and Security Force bases and other advisory locations in the area of responsibility.
Train Advise Assist Command - South covers the provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Daykundi and consists of troops from Bulgaria, Romania and the USA with a small team of Australians integrated.
Forces train, advise assist and enable the Afghan forces through security force integration of effects to develop long-term sustainability and posturing.
Captain Condon’s duties include performing objective risk assessments using a system developed by Headquarters Resolute Support, based on a risk assessment tool designed by his predecessor, Captain Jason Law.
“The modified risk assessment tool is now used by NATO forces across Afghanistan at all sites we conduct advising activities,” he said.
“I work closely with a US civilian contractor and a US Army Military Police officer who are the Command anti-terrorism officers.
“In conjunction with force protection assessments we also conduct anti-terrorism assessments, which are a requirement of the US Department of Defense, where we look at the security posture of each site.
“We need to know who controls security, what is the security of the perimeter, where are the entry control points and guard towers and what procedures are used, such as a quick reaction force and its notice to move.”
Captain Condon and his team are responsible for the force protection assessments of nearly 30 operational sites as well as the locations for the Expeditionary Advising Packages, where a group of advisors 'fly to advise' the four brigades in the region for short-term missions of five to 30 days.
When the Security Force Advisory and Assistance Teams who advise the Afghan National Army 205th Corps, Provincial Governors and Afghan National Police on deliberate operations move to new locations they are often joined by Captain Condon and his team.
Captain Condon said joining a team on a train, advise, assist mission gave him opportunities to meet Afghan base commanders during the risk assessments and advise on opportunities to improve their security measures.
“Usually we’ll be assigned an Afghan escort to guide us around the sites and let the local security forces and personnel manning the guard towers know what we are doing,” he said.
“The Afghans are very receptive, and we can offer informal force protection advice on areas such as guard shift times, sectors of defence, range cards, the employment of weapons systems and how to manage entry control.”
The US-led Force Protection Element includes soldiers of the US Army and the Romanian Land Forces, who provide guardian angel support for activities outside Kandahar Airfield.
Soldiers of the Bulgarian Army manage one of the primary entry control points at Kandahar Airfield and do perimeter patrols of the base.
Captain Condon said his experience as an infantry officer with an engineering background gave him a good grounding for the role.
“To ensure we are compliant with Resolute Support’s policies we’ve increased our force protection measures at Kandahar Airfield and other bases with persistent surveillance of the perimeters which feed into the Base Defence Operations Centre,” he said.
“We’ve also enhanced the defensive positions at Kandahar Airfield with additional vehicle fighting positions.”
As one of the six Australians embedded, Captain Condon said it was interesting learning about the force protection procedures in the US-led coalition environment.
“The Australians integrate well with the US military because we are a small but dynamic workforce who are willing to work hard with our partners,” he said.
“I also need to negotiate with civilian agencies who don’t operate the same way as the military.
Captain Condon said the highlight of his mission was contributing to the mission to maximise the effects of Afghan Forces counter-insurgency operations in southern Afghanistan.
“It’s been rewarding ensuring the best possible security for the 10,000 coalition personnel employed in this region,” he said.
About 300 Australian personnel are deployed on Operation Highroad, which is Australia’s commitment to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
They join more than 16,000 personnel from 41 NATO member states and partner countries deployed across Afghanistan in support of Resolute Support.
The Resolute Support mission is the NATO-led non-combat, train, advise and assist mission in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in particular the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Force and relevant Afghan institutions, to develop their capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.